The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) is calling for feedback on how locally-produced organic foods are best regulated.
First Assistant Secretary of Agricultural Policy at DAWE, Joanna Stanion invited consumers, farmers, transporters, exporters, retailers and industry bodies to have their say and contribute to a new organics regulation impact statement.
Releasing its Domestic Organic Regulatory Framework: Consultation regulation impact statement (RIS), DAWE said earlier consultation, conducted from December to February, found consumers had inconsistent understandings of organic claims and that many businesses reported a level of false and misleading conduct in the sector.
The Department said there was currently no legislated or Government-endorsed definition of ‘organic’; no mandatory standard for domestic use; and no requirement for certification of organic products produced and sold domestically in Australia.
“Businesses that make organic claims on goods in the Australian domestic market must be able to substantiate those claims, consistent with the whole-of-economy requirements under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL),” it said.
“There are protections against misleading, false and deceptive conduct, and consumers are able to make complaints to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and State and Territory fair trading regulators.
“Organic businesses can choose to be certified by an organic certification body to underpin truth in labelling and promote consumer confidence.”
DAWE said there were several issues with the current system, including confusion and costs for some businesses in navigating regulations; barriers to trade and market access which could impede market growth; and a lack of clear and consistent information that may impact consumer confidence and protections.
“A key focus for the Department is to gather evidence in these areas, identify those impacted and gauge the extent of any failure in the market,” it said.
The Department said submissions to its Consultation RIS would be used to prepare a recommended policy option for Government consideration.
It said people could have a say on the organics regulatory framework by participating in a survey before 17 March.